What is left of Christianity in Scotland?
The average weekly attendance at all Scottish Premier league football matches in the season 2008/9 was 144,000. All first division matches were attended by an average of 27,000. Many less than 200,000 attended all senior and junior football matches on average each week. How does that compare with church attendance? Recent figures for church attendance for the United Kingdom are :
13% at least once a week
10% once a month
12% at Christmas etc
8% once a year
Specific beliefs are as follows:
71% God 30% devil
64%, soul 25% hell
44% life after death 68% sin
53% heaven 32% resurrection
In Sweden only 45% believe in God, and in Ireland 96%.
For Scotland, church attendance figures were researched in 2002.
Table 2.1: Churchgoers by denomination, 1984-2002
Denomination 1984 % change 1994 % change 2002 % of total in 2002
Church of Scotland 361,340 -19 293,170 -22 228,500 40
Roman Catholic 345,950 -28 249,720 -19 202,110 35
Independent 39,370 +22 48,020 - 6 45,010 8
Smaller denominations 29,120 +5 30,500 -11 28,640 5
Baptist 29,240 -16 24,530 +1 24,830 5
Other Presbyterian 28,680 -19 23,310 - 5 22,170 4
Episcopal 20,000 +2 20,350 - 7 18,870 3
Total All Scotland 853,700 -19 691,120 -18 570,130 100
570,130 weekly church attenders as against 144,000 attending Premier league football matches.
71% - 3,600,000 of the Scottish population believe in God.
Why then does the BBC not reflect this in its programme output? There are football programmes daily on BBC Radio Scotland. There’s an obligatory football section in the BBC TV and STV TV news every evening. There’s nothing in about the churches except if something special is happening or something scandalous.
You’d never believe the importance of Christianity for Scotland a from the downbeat negative press and media coverage the Church gets. The Labour Party membership for Scotland is 15,000 and the Scottish national Party membership is 12,000. The membership of the Church of Scotland is 480,000. How is it possible that the Church can be so lacking in influence? Why has Christianity been allowed to be sidelined in our schools?
On the face of it then - there is a lot left of Christianity in this country.
There are many Christian charities operating in Scotland and in the UK.
• Christian Aid -
• Church Action on Poverty -
• Church Urban Fund -
• Global Gang -
• Good News Family Care -
• Hope Now -
• Independent Christian Workers Trust -
• Kingscare -
• Operation Brotherly Love -
• Pressureworks -
• REACH Romanian Aid Charity -
• Romanian Aid Foundation, The -
• Salvation Army
• Siloam Christian Ministeries -
• Stamps for Christian Missions (SFCM) -
• SurfAid -
• Tearfund -
• THOMAS -
These are just a few of thousands of Christian charities.
There is a lot left of Christianity in Scotland.
What about public values? The great occasions are still celebrated within the context of Christianity. The Remembrance Festival in the Albert Hall in London is unashamedly and solely Christian still. There is a strong national and public connection between serving in the armed forces and Christianity and this is manifested in the funeral services for fallen soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
Politics too, for all its bluster and con, is still influenced by Christianity although, here, it may well be argued that politics has eroded Christian standards of understanding and conduct in favour of political correctness and a moral free for all. All politicians seek, however to have a strong moral basis to their policies and that is usually traceable to Christianity.
Interpretation of European human rights legislation has taken the place of direct appeals to Christian heritage and that has allowed real absurdities to exist and co-exist in our society now. It has also reduced the status of Christianity and indeed subjected Christianity to the interests of other minority groups. And there is no doubt that at this level and in such instances, it seems that there is not a lot of Christianity left in this country.
The problem then is a media problem and a perception problem. Today, to be considered anything, you have to be in the media. If you exist, you exist in the media and if you are not in the media you don’t exist. The perception therefore is that the churches are dying out and Christianity is dying too. That is not the case however. What we have to do is focus on God and not on the media. We are to live our lives to please God not to gain media attention for ourselves. We are to exercise the spiritual dimension of our lives and existence and rejoice in doing so. Even St Paul counselled new Christians that their lives were hidden from the world, hidden in Christ. Our medium is the communion of saints, the populace of heaven - they are our audience and spectators, not TV viewers.
Of course, Christianity is to be proclaimed and it would be good if it was proclaimed more obviously on TV. In America, as you know, there are many Christian channels operating but they are all paid for by subscriptions from Christian viewers. This has never taken off here. American Gospel TV is too replete with blatant fund-raising and show biz presentation to ever be acceptable in Europe with its long established Christian culture. If the Church of Scotland had a TV channel - would you watch it? Who would be on it? You see what happens with Songs of Praise - it become more folksy and X-Factor like in order to continue appearing in a peak-time broadcasting slot. Anglican and Roman Catholic worship with its rituals and spectacular robes and performance is attractive to visual tele-presentation but our modest more direct and relational worship is not so media friendly. And yet - it is surviving.
What is left of Christianity in Scotland? Actually a very great deal. What will be left in 20 years time? Or 50? We don’t know. But one calculation in the 1960’s as the decline began predicted that the Church of Scotland would disappear by 2007. It manifestly has not. Nor will it disappear by 2030 or 2060.
What we do not see though is any significant revival. We do not see a political return to Christianity as the source of values and as a commendable way of life. But Christianity lived that way for its first 300 years. It was a better Christianity than that which followed thereafter. Maybe then, we have the opportunity to be better Christians in this day and age. We have to think more, pray more, give more and be more faithful and committed. In other words, we have to take Jesus Christ seriously in personal life because we cannot rely on public governmental sponsored Christianity to save us the effort.
In other words:
Teach us, Good Lord
To serve you as you deserve.
To give and not count the cost.
To fight and not heed the wounds.
To toil and not to seek for rest.
To labour and not to ask for any reward
Except that of knowing that we do Your Will.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.